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The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is warning consumers about scammers and fraudsters trying to cash in on the public's confusion about how the new health insurance exchanges are going to work.
"There are folks taking advantage because they know people are hearing blurbs on TV and radio," says Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, chair of the NAIC's Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee. [...]

Open enrollment in the new marketplaces begins Oct. 1, but bogus websites that claim to be part of the exchanges have been sprouting online for more than a year. Oftentimes the scammers are looking to sell phony policies or obtain personal information from unwitting consumers, such as Social Security/Medicare ID, credit card, or bank account numbers.

Praeger says anecdotal reports have been surfacing about the scams, but it's hard to know how widespread they've become. "We know there are some phony websites that have been created so it's hard to tell because sign-up hasn't really started yet," she says. "But that is why an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—the old medical adage. It is important that we at least get information out there and alert people."

To make sure that you are accessing a real, valid health insurance exchange website, you can start with the federal government's hub site at HealthCare.gov. But it's not just phony websites. Bill Deal, the director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, says that Idahoans have reported phone calls from scammers.
A couple of the scams they're seeing involves a phone solicitor trying to pressure you into purchasing a limited time offer, or claiming that you could go to jail for not having health insurance.

"It's a red flag because it's not true," Deal said. "Nobody is going to jail."

Being uninsured might result in a fine on your taxes, but you won't face jail time. Also, Deal says open enrollment in the exchange will run from October 1st until March 31st.

"There's no rush to buy," he said.

Because it's what they do, many of the scammers are preying on the elderly with these phone calls, telling them they will need new Medicare cards because of the law in order to get personal information from them. As always, someone calling you to get personal information like Social Security or credit card numbers is a scam. There might be outreach efforts conducted by official Obamacare navigators or recruiters, including door-to-door canvassing or phone calls. But those calls will be informational only, not asking for any private information.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 12:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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